A letter from a retired Jackson schoolteacher:
Choosing my words carefully, I feel compelled to pray for the Jackson School District and especially the board members who will be selecting new leadership for the district in the next few weeks. I am praying that this will not be treated lightly and there will not be an ‘inside selection’ where others need not apply. I am asking the board members to truly review each candidate and their connection to the district. I will always love the district.
I spent 25 of the happiest years of my life there. I was hired in the Fall of 1984. My selection was a fluke, it was late in the summer (I was hired 8 days before school started.) I had no family or inside pull. I was quite enamored of the whole district, students, etc. I never got over that feeling.
I served first under Dr. Frank Wiley who told me that he was hesitant to hire me because Government was the THE MOST HATED CLASS in the district! Mr.Nelson later told me that I was hired because I was mature at age 31 and cheap on the pay scale. Essentially I got the job because I was ‘old and cheap’. The second Superintendent I served under was Wayne Maupin. Mr. Maupin was a diligent protector of the district’s money, it’s teachers and students. I recall two times that he sought me out, once to apologize for not calling off school early enough when he heard that I had gone into a ditch on the way to school. The second time, he came to my classroom after the suicide of a student because he was concerned about how I was coping. I will never forget his compassion and desire to connect to the students and the teachers. Dr. Jones was the next leader of the Jackson district. He was not there very long, but he made a tremendous difference for me. On the opening day of school, in his speech he said: “I did a mock interview for a college student, and asked him who he would like to emulate as a teacher. The student’s reply was: “The greatest teacher of all times was Jesus Christ. I would like to be like Mr. Seabaugh, because Science is my chosen field, but I would really like to be like Mrs. Dooley, because she makes you just love learning.” I lived off of those words for the rest of my career. I had to. There were no more words of praise. Ever.
It seems, IN MY OPINION, that many teachers and leaders in the district who had a true heart for the district, a love for its students and a true concern for how things were being managed were quickly dismissed and urged to move on. Opinions were not welcome and anyone who had one was dismissed as “Negative”. Anyone with experience, who had invested, blood, sweat and tears for the district were pushed aside for people who had less than three years experience in education.
It became very clear that you supported the administrative agenda or you were very quickly persona non grata. I never claimed to be the most intelligent or the best teacher of the district, but I did invest heavily in time, prayers and tears for my students. The Bible says: Study to show thyself approved, a workman who needs not to be ashamed. I know that I did do that. I was told that teachers were to be facilitators and to allow the students to learn on their own. I was a dinosaur that could not accept that. I made the decision to retire after prayerful consideration in 2009.
It was clear that I was attending a party that I was not invited to. I was docked in pay for giving the eulogy at a student’s funeral. I was docked in pay for being the only teacher who attended the funeral of Bob Davis who died in Afghanistan. No administrators attended. Why did we not line the street with flags when his funeral procession passed our school? I will never understand that one.
I confessed to one student that I never understood why God put me at Jackson to begin with and he replied, “He put you there for me. On several occasions, I was planning to commit suicide, but would decide to attend your class one last time. On each of those days, you would say something that would convince me to go on another day.”
Even though I received several awards and was asked to give the graduation speech five times, I was never considered to be a good teacher by administrators. On the last day, one described the other retiring teachers with tremendous praise and then said, “Mrs. Dooley is retiring, too.” My heart was truly ripped out.
I know in my heart that I served a purpose, if only for comic relief. I know that those students who I visited when they were sick and even dying, those who were going through great turmoil, and those who just loved learning remember being in my class. I fear that teachers, like me are endangered. The test score is the only measure of true learning. On my last evaluation, I was told that the the students didn’t like me because I was a good teacher, they liked me because I was a ‘mom’ to them, and that they did not need me to be a ‘mom”. And that is how I ended twenty-five years of my life.
So, today, I am pleading with the Jackson School Board to consider what kind of person they will put in charge. It takes more than just a businessman, the current pick of a questionable leader. It takes a person who has a true servant’s heart, a love for students and a love for learning! We need a leader who inspires students and teachers to do their very best. The attitude, in my opinion, for too long has been, “if you don’t like the way things are, we have fifty more who will take your job.” and “Teachers are a dime a dozen”.
Good ones aren’t.
My greatest success at the school was on the day that I sat in a student’s desk at 4:30 in the afternoon praying for him, asking God to send someone into his life that he might really hear to solve a very serious problem in his life. As I was praying, he walked through my door! We talked, cried and prayed for two hours. I felt God’s presence in that classroom that day.
If for no other reason, I will always be proud to say that God gave me the opportunity to serve at Jackson High School for twenty-five years, where He nurtured and protected me. He gave mentors like Hal Goddard and Karen Kight (a modern day version of Peter and Paul). He allowed me to learn from the very best. Teachers, like me, were problematic.
That is why today, I am begging the members of the Jackson Board to look beyond who is just in line for the job and seek out the applications of those who have a true heart for students, not only their test score, but the people that they are destined to become. Maybe some of them, were, like me and others who have left the district, problematic.